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Meryl Davis: The Impact Of Sport

By Meryl Davis, 2014 Olympic Ice Dance Champion | May 08, 2015, 10:37 a.m. (ET)

It's no surprise that not every kid is going to "make it" when it comes to his or her future in sport. Of the multitude of children participating in various sports from figure skating to soccer and beyond, how many go on to be the "success" they once dreamed of? While Stanley Cups may not be in every miniature Red Wing’s future, I believe that a different perspective should play a much larger role in what we see as "success" on the ice or any other field of play.

Stepping away from our own "field" for a time, Charlie and I have spent a large portion of our days on the road for various tours and events. Amid our travels, down time and many discussions, we often find ourselves talking to people about the beauty of sport and the ways our own involvement has enhanced our lives. For that, the word gratitude doesn't seem comprehensive enough.

What's more, however, is that our advocacy of the values and lessons we've learned through our years on the ice has only increased in the time since the Sochi Games. This is due in no small part to our participation in various organizations that have allowed us to see the application of these lessons in unique ways.

For the last three years, Charlie and I have been fortunate to be a part of a program called Classroom Champions. Founded by 2010 Olympic bobsled champion Steve Mesler, the program allows Olympians and Paralympians to share the lessons they've learned through sport with students around the country. These lessons, as the program intends, most certainly apply to the classroom as well. From discussing goal setting to perseverance, the responses we've received from our classrooms have been tremendous.

Another stellar example of the value of lessons learned through sport is the Figure Skating in Harlem program. I recently attended the organization's annual Skating with the Stars Gala in New York where the growth and empowerment of the program's participants were on full display. The program uses skating as a tool to teach and promote well-being and success among young girls in underserved New York City communities. There, we announced the initiation of Detroit's own version of the program. Charlie and I are proud to be even a small part of bringing this program to the Detroit area as we've come to understand and appreciate the depth of its impact.

One of the many beautiful things, I've found, about sharing one's own story is that it provides opportunity for reflection and for fresh perspective. I recently had the opportunity to do just that as I spoke at The Windward School for students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities. In putting my speech together, I found a greater appreciation for the way skating has helped me through my own challenges with dyslexia over the years. I hadn't realized before how fortunate I've am to have had an outlet outside of the classroom to challenge me and, ultimately, empower me.

To put it more eloquently, I turn to the ever-quotable Henry David Thoreau: "What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." Since achieving some of my own goals in Sochi, I've only become more appreciative of the role sport has played in my life. As Olympians, I believe it's our duty to highlight what sport is really about. Is it about success? Absolutely…but not the kind of "success" that wins medals. Rather, sport is about the kind of success that brings you one step closer to being the best version of yourself. That, I believe, is why we should encourage our youth to participate in sport.

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Meryl Davis